The last time I saw my friend Joyce, she was propped up in bed just like this... all eighty-five or so pounds of her. It was a chilly February day. Joyce had recently been admitted to a nursing home, and I thought I'd check in on her. Toting a big pot of tulips decorated with red foil for Valentine's Day, I stopped at the nurses' station and was directed to her room. The door was wide open connecting my delicate little friend to all of the cheerful activity, the buzz of the busy nursing home happening in the sunlit hallway. Deaf as could be, she didn't notice me at first. I stood there in the hall and couldn't help but smile as I watched her, happily sipping what looked like a nutritional shake from a clear plastic cup as she watched CNN's headlines zip across the television screen. She was so thin that her body hardly disturbed the clean line of the blanket that covered her; she was completely dwarfed by the hospital bed.
I drank that moment in. It was nice to see her looking well and happy. Joyce, my across-the-street neighbor, had been sick for a long, long time. We had a nice little visit that day; she remembered me and was (mostly) awake the whole time. As I gave her a hug and a kiss on my way out, I wondered if that visit would be our last. Sadly, it was.
Joyce passed away on September 29 in Huntsville, Alabama. Her family had moved her to another nursing home there, to be near them. This afternoon however, we had a little memorial service for her here in Savannah. There weren't many of us in attendance: some family members who had traveled in from Huntsville, a handful of other neighbors and friends, the minister from her church, my son and me. As we sang 'How Great Thou Art,' I cried for my friend Joyce. I will miss her.
It's funny, Joyce and I were great friends, but she really never cared for my illustration work. She was much too polite to ever come out and say that, of course, but she was also too honest to pretend to be a fan. Thought I'd post this little sketch of her, because I think she might actually approve of the style of it... although she'd be upset with me for showing her as she was that day, thinning hair all mussed, and in her jammies.
For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning-
though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.
~ Psalm 90:4-6